Loudoun County could wind up losing $6 million a year if it is unfortunate enough to win one of the region’s most highly sought-after federal agencies.
That’s one scenario laid out by the Loudoun economic development department as the county seeks to make its case that the FBI should relocate to within its borders. The county released a briefing report Wednesday estimating that the FBI could wind up taking up to 85 acres of land off Loudoun’s tax base that might otherwise be turned into a lucrative, privately developed commercial project. That’s because Loudoun can’t charge the federal government property taxes, while it could collect from a private developer.
“The potential opportunity cost, in terms of forgone revenue, could be as much as $6M per year if the above mentioned acreage is removed from potential future taxable use,” the briefing memo stated. The FBI could wind up selecting a site in Loudoun that is owned by the federal government, which would lessen the economic loss.
The assessment was prepared for the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, which met during an economic development committee Wednesday evening to discuss Loudoun’s chances and strategy for luring the nation’s leading law enforcement agency from its longtime home at 935 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in the District.
The county, just like neighboring Fairfax County, wants the FBI to select a site within its borders for a new headquarters. But the county wants to make sure the agency selects the right site, that being one that’s already owned by the federal government and not being assessed property taxes.
Supervisor Ralph Buona, R-Ashburn, said ultimately the selection will come down to the right property and the right development proposal, not how hard local governments like Loudoun lobby the federal government. But he said the county has the chance to lay the backdrop by highlighting Loudoun’s attributes.
“The developers will put in a response that is germane to their property, but someone has to go in and preach the Loudoun story,” Buona was quoted in Leesburg Today as having said. “The county presentation would point out ‘All the discriminators that brings Loudoun to the table.’”
The solicitation the FBI issued in December is just seeking information, not a binding proposal, and the county’s briefing report raised questions about how much information the FBI and GSA will gather as part of the process. Ideas are due in early March, but the briefing memo said respondents are not likely to reveal their best ideas until the GSA issues a more formal and potentially binding request for proposals. The report also noted there is likely to be a gap under the land-swap scenario and that the federal government will need to put up more money for a new headquarters than the FBI’s current site is worth. Read more about that in tomorrow’s print edition of the Washington Business Journal.
The county, and its competitors, aren’t as much interested in the FBI itself as the commercial activity that would spring up around it. The headquarters is expected to draw other companies that do business with the FBI and related private developments such as new homes, offices, shops and restaurants that would generate tax revenue.